The accounting department at Sonoma State University has quietly grown into a job-placement powerhouse, competing with schools like Brigham Young University and the University of Southern California in bringing the nation's top accounting firms to recruit students as early as freshman year. "We're now considered a 'target school' for major accounting firms," says Joe Standridge, accounting professor and advisor of the Accounting Forum student club.
The club celebrates its graduating seniors with an annual private dinner banquet--an event now in its 21st year--on April 29. What started out as 40 students gathering to celebrate their accomplishments at the end of the academic year has blossomed into a major event with sponsored tables and companies eager to meet potential recruits. "We expect more than 200 people to be there, including major firms and alumni returning to support the program," says Standridge, who took over the Accounting Forum at Sonoma State 15 years ago for its founder, Professor Wally Lowry.
Success builds on success, and Sonoma State recently began participating in the Pricewaterhouse Case Competition, an invite-only annual competition for accounting majors. Accounting students are also recruited annually by the "Big Four" accounting firms: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. The Accounting Forum is now the largest academic club on campus, with over 100 dedicated members every semester.
"The program only works if the students work," says Accounting Forum Vice President Jason Olvera. Students who have gone through the recruitment process share their knowledge of the experience with incoming freshmen. Since firms begin recruiting as early as freshman year, it's an essential tool in preparing students to impress prospective employers.
"It's one thing to get advice from an instructor, but its another thing to hear it from a student who has gone through the process," says Olvera.
Between 60 and 80 accounting majors graduate from Sonoma State each year, and most of them have jobs lined up long before donning a cap and gown, says Standridge. His daughter is one of those on track to graduate this year with an accounting degree and job in place. "In terms of starting a career right after graduation, Sonoma State is on par with the big schools," he says. "I always tell people, 'Why would you want to go anywhere else?'"